At the end of March 2011, a few weeks after the Great East Japan Earthquake, 20 rice farmers affiliated to J-Rap, an agricultural distribution company in Sukagawa, central Fukushima Prefecture, got together to assess the situation.
Ito argued otherwise, eventually convincing the farmers to plant the seedlings as usual. “My stance was that I wanted to have as many seedlings as possible planted, since the more fields we worked on, the more diverse the data we got would be. And I thought such data would prove vital down the road.”
Meanwhile, based on tests of this season’s harvest, which started in late September, Ito says he hopes to bring the average cesium contamination across all J-Rap’s brown rice down to half of last year’s level — nearly 1/100th of the government limit. He also claims that, when it’s milled and eaten as white rice, the contamination will go down further.
If this is all as Ito claims, it will be some accomplishment, considering that few rice farmers in the nation, let alone Fukushima, can say their produce will contain a certain amount of cesium with that level of accuracy and clarity.
At present, when farmers say radiation is “nondetectable” in their rice, that may well be because the detectors they are using can’t register radioactive emissions below 10 or 20 or 25 becquerels per kilogram. In addition, measurements also vary according to how long the specimen is exposed to detectors. Hence some producers and distributors may be claiming “nondetectable” levels of radiation in their produce if they are prioritizing testing throughout over accuracy.
In practice, though, the concerned consumer in Japan is left even more in the dark because a majority of domestic food producers don’t publicize the results of radiation tests at all — or the frequency or the scale of their testing — but just blithely declare their fare is “within the government limit.”
In contrast, what further sets Ito apart from most of the nation’s other radiation-plagued farmers is his eagerness to seek advice from independent experts — especially antinuclear types with first-hand knowledge of what happened in the aftermath of the catastrophic 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine.
Continue reading at Farmer plows own antiradiation furrow
An article on farming in Fukushima that stands out for its thoroughness in its coverage of a farmer who seems to be outstandingly thorough. it’s striking that Mr. Ito has been drawing on the expertise of known nuclear critics. We need to hope also for the health of the farmers who work the ground.